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AUGUST 6 “DEMOCRACY FEST!” CELEBRATES THE ONGOING STRUGGLE FOR VOTING RIGHTS
Local “Your Voice + Your Vote” coalition invites community to fight back against far-right attacks on human rights and democracy
A first annual “Democracy Fest!” will take place at Southside Community Center on Sunday, August 6, 2023, celebrating the struggle for voting rights and the signing of the federal Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. The event is the brainchild of Jeff Furman, a local social entrepreneur whose organization Rejoice the Vote has been working for years to encourage civic participation and voting, especially among young people.
Rejoice The Vote has joined with more than a dozen other local organizations to form a coalition aimed at increasing civic participation and voter turnout in Tompkins County. Your Voice + Your Vote: Tompkins Civic Engagement Coalition (aka YV2) hopes the August 6 event will cultivate greater appreciation of our voting rights, honor those who fought and died for those rights, and encourage everyone to get out the vote in order to protect and expand human rights in this nation.
“We want people to come out and celebrate the power of voting and civic engagement,” says Jeff Furman. “We’re going to have great music, dance, speakers, and lots of free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream! And, I have some really good news I’m going to share.”
The YV2 Coalition is especially focused on engaging people who may be skeptical of voting. “A lot of people have given up on the system,” says Phoebe Brown, whose organization Alliance of Families for Justice is one of the YV2 Coalition partners. Brown admits she had given up for decades, before deciding to run (successfully) for Ithaca City Council. “I know that if all of us who are being hurt by the system would get out and vote, we could turn that system upside down and start taking care of the people!”
The event will begin at 2pm at the statue of Martin Luther King on the Ithaca Commons, with a brief march commemorating the marches from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The celebration itself will take place at Southside Community Center on Plain Street from 2:30-5pm.
Confirmed speakers and entertainers include:
● NYS Senator Lea Webb
● Rejoice the Vote Director Jeff Furman
● Ithaca City Council member Phoebe Brown
● Office of Human Rights Director Dr. Kenneth Clarke
● Tompkins County legislator Mike Siegler (invited)
● Southside Community Center Deputy Director Kayla Matos
● DJ Double A
● Calvary Baptist Church Choir
● Southside Jam Band
● Southside Story Tellers
● Spoken word artist Taili Mugambee
● and more to be announced
YV2 Coalition Partners will be tabling, registering new voters, and encouraging everyone to get out and recruit even more voters.
For more information about the event or the YV2 Coalition, contact the Tompkins County Office of Human Rights at 607-277-4080 or email email@example.com.
YV2 Coalition Partners to Date:
● Rejoice the Vote
● Alliance of Families for Justice
● Ultimate Reentry URO
● TC League of Women Voters
● Dorothy Cotton Institute
● Ithaca Housing Collective (IHC)
● Southside Community Center
● TC Human Rights Commission
● TC Office of Human Rights
● African Women’s Initiative
● Finger Lakes Independence Center
● Groton Public Library
● Open Doors English
● Tompkins County Public Library
● Tompkins Learning Partners
● Cayuga Health System
What other YV2 Coalition Partners are saying:
“There is a crisis facing democracy right now,” says Joanna Green, member of the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission and one of the organizers of the YV2 Coalition. “There is an urgent need to fight back against the escalating attacks on our rights and freedoms. We may be a progressive community, but we’re not safe from the impacts of the far right on national policy. So it’s critical that we engage a lot more people now, and get them to the polls.”
“Democracy expands through civic participation,” says Ken Clarke, Director of the Tompkins County Office of Human Rights and an organizer of YV2. “Civic participation empowers citizens with information. Information is the oxygen of democracy. This oxygen cuts through the smog of misinformation and lies that has become increasingly prominent in American public life.”
Megan Nettleton, with the Tompkins County League of Women Voters, says, “The future of our families, our communities, and our country are at stake. No matter what zip code we live in, our voices are equal at the ballot box, and we could all use some help making sure our voices are heard.”